German society was restless and dynamic, and Berlin became the arena of many conflicts between reactionary and radical forces. Red revolutionaries, the keepers of traditions, anarchists, socialists and artists lived cheek by jowl with each other. The city had everything, from experimental theaters through cabarets to female emancipation and formal dances for homosexuals. There was a constant pushing of the borders of morality, and the social life was more infamous than famous.
Berlin was the centre for art and literature, and even more so for art theory and art criticism. The aversion for all things French meant more Germans were now turning to Scandinavia, where modernism had become important very early. In 1892, the German playwright Hermann Sudermann was so moved by the Nordic influence, he exclaimed: "Vom Norder her kommt uns das Licht!"